One thing I’ve learned in life is that actions speak much louder than words. For example:
For 2019 through 2021, the actual expenditures vs budget (something most businesses would examine) for Columbus Animal Care and Control speaks volumes.
A total of $3,671,745 was budgeted yet only $3,217,861.92 was spent, $453,884 left on the table. This is a banner accomplishment for businesses who are looking for profit. Yet we are talking about Columbus Animal Care and Control. Here when money is “saved”, lives are impacted and more will be spent in the long run.
Over the same three years, the city spent a total of $74,069.29 in veterinarian services, for 12,917 impounded animals, less than $5.73 per animal. The city says they vaccinate all animals on intake (a step which helps reduce disease and saves more serious medical costs in the near future), yet we know the lack of adequate staffing has not allowed this protocol to be followed consistently. After vaccinations, there is little to nothing left for parasite treatment, antibiotics, or pain management during the required stray hold. And for those that stay behind those five days of stray hold, there are just prayers.
Prison inmates provided cleaning labor for years until changes in state protocols reduced their availability and then covid took that away. Yet there have been no additions to the city’s payroll for animal control to fill the gap. Just too few employees with added responsibilities on their job description.
This while the city proudly promotes Columbus as a No-Kill Community.
During this time, the city’s adoption rate dropped 55%. Return to owners saw a drop of 14% and it’s even lower through July of this year. Rescues offset these losses with an almost 20% increase in the number of animals they saved.
So who is responsible for the city not killing for space? How much medical care for the impounded (much less injured) does the city plan for? What community outreach has the city provided to promote responsible pet ownership? What has the city done to promote spay/neuter opportunities?
The city's actions have shown there is no interest in going beyond meeting minimum standards. My involvement with the privatization efforts showed me the city budget barely meets recommended shelter staffing, much less for things like power, water, supplies and animal care. First they don’t budget enough. Then they don’t even spend that.
I knew we were going backwards. I just didn’t realize how much we have enabled the city to remain operating at status quo while bragging about what the community does for our animals. Instead of striving for a progressive shelter, their actions shout out POUND.
Sorry for the very long read but I have to speak out about the complete waste of time trying to move forward with the city having a progressive animal control. During Tuesday (August 9) morning’s council meeting, Mr. Hugley confirmed he has stopped discussions about privatizing based on media stories. City decisions are being made based on rumor and assumptions with no effort to have direct communication. There has been no attempt by the city to discuss anything with Paws in the last 8 months in spite of what was said on July 26th (available to watch on YouTube, animal control discussion starts at 2 hours, 7 minutes). This just confirms my assumption the city never planned on funding animal control on the level needed to move past being a dog pound. Once the city was told last year that Paws was not prepared to supplement the contract services with donated funds, I believe there was no future. Yet it takes a year and coming close to slandering Paws for the city to have their exit plan.
The next day the most animals killed in one day in almost four years happened. While the public is ultimately responsible for their being such a high demand, the reality is the city has been playing games for far too long and refuses to be proactive.
Below is an email I sent to the council and the mayor on Monday the 8th. I just couldn’t let the statements made at the July 26th meeting go unchallenged. Most of their comments were just ignorant. I received zero responses from this or the May 16th email mentioned below which discussed the need for more personnel at Columbus Animal Care and Control along with other things. (Paws’ proposal had 30+ positions, the city 19). We now know the answer to my question.
I would like to address some points discussed in the surprise July 26th council presentation discussing privatizing animal control services.
I’ll start with Ms Goodwin’s comment that Paws would be getting everything on a silver platter. With the current staffing issues (please see my email of May 16th which was sent before the recent rise of covid impacting them further) the situation is anything but on a silver platter. This is in no way derogatory toward the current staff who only can do so much. If the situation continues as it is today by the time a contract could be executed, I’m scared to think where it will be.
Mayor Henderson incorrectly stated that Paws would fundraise to support their efforts under this contract. So a non-profit, who is struggling to continue their services at the level expected by themselves and the public in today’s economic conditions (similar to everyone in the industry nationwide), is supposed to take fundraising efforts away from their needs to support the city? Does the city expect to pay somewhere near the current budget amount and receive the level of service presented in the Request for Proposal by expecting the vendor to conjure up the balance needed? They are delusional, especially when the city also expects to receive all the income produced. The intent of Paws from day one of discussing this possibility of tackling this challenge was that it be a stand-alone venture, supporting itself.
Mr. Davis was the first to express concern about Paws' understanding of the depth of services needed and once again mentioned picking up dead animals. First of all Paws understands the requirements of the services. They have a full proposal, including staffing and training of all personnel beyond what is currently provided and their current director is a former Animal Control Field Officer for the city. We feel we have a better understanding of the needs and responsibilities than some council members. Second, Mr. Davis may want to look at how often the position for picking up dead animals has been vacant in the last year. Thirdly, the last call I made about a dead deer at my driveway I was told to call 911. I do not feel that the stressed 911 department should be bothered with such and did not call. The buzzards took care of it in two days while fortunately not causing any car accidents.
Mr. Allen mentioned dealing with a non-profit is different than a business. Just because an entity is not in the business to make a profit does not mean it is not a business. Every corporation has a board who is responsible for its operations. The board does not usually take care of the day-to-day operations but provides oversight and direction. While the board membership may have rotating positions every two years, it is a small percentage of membership and provides new energy with new insights yet all remain
bound by previous commitments. Also his mention of the depth of services (and thanks to Ms Short’s presentation we know hogs are a problem in his area), that already is contracted work not done by city employees.
Mr. Hugley’s statement of how the job “looks easy” shows how out of touch with reality he is. If things were doing so well there would not be all the phone calls and emails. We are in the building daily and see how the current staff is under-supported and close to breaking. Paws is fully aware of the many daily challenges and is willing to provide the additional personnel and resources to do the job so citizens won’t have the need to make calls to council and other city staff about issues.
Ms Thomas was correct in saying things are falling apart. The department is severely understaffed and it is not reasonable to demand the level of service our citizens expect. So the city can either hire enough staff to run the center efficiently, hire a contractor to do the job, or agree that they don’t want to be anything other than a dog pound. The average yearly amount spent in direct animal care over the last three years is less than $55,000 while impounding over 4,300 animals (so less than $13 per animal). That speaks volumes. Just food for the stray hold week and vaccines could use that. So no funding for holding animals for an extended time past a stray hold to give them time to find a new home. Another example of how too many in government believe in only meeting minimum standards instead of looking at how investing a little more up front saves much more over time. Animal control's savings today will not only cost the city but also all the rescues that work with them exponentially more in the coming years.
Is the city going to continue acting like they have any interest in a quality center or will they come clean and admit they will not commit the needed funds?
When Animal SOS received the Request for Proposals (RFP) from the City in April, it was easy to get excited about the possibility of Columbus Animal Care and Control (CACC) being privatized. They included requirements asking a vendor to supply services way beyond what is currently being provided. Services that our community expects and deserves. If you would like to review the entire 22 page RFP, here’s a link https://docs.google.com/document/d/1lJhythyHi4VeXeKwCElF4U6gObcMi8e4lKXjEhHAZWc/edit?usp=sharing.
Below is a comparison of some of the requirements from the RFP and current city services. The left side of the table are sections from the RFP. We’ve bolded areas that caught our attention. The right side discusses the city’s current offerings. Questions for you to consider are at the bottom.
Will the city meet the standards required in this RFP if the contract does not move forward? Will their budget expand to include all these requirements not being funded today? Or will the excuses continue?
You should be hearing more about this possible contract in the coming weeks. We hope the discussion does not attempt to compare the apples of today's CACC to the oranges expected from the winning vendor.
We believe our citizens expect Columbus’ animal services to meet the standards set under this RFP.
Do you support the extra costs to provide these worthy services?
How would you rate the City’s performance today on a 1 -10 scale?
Today we said goodbye to a dog we knew only a short time. We knew going into it we would not have long with him. Yet we wanted to bring him some relief and allow him to enjoy the few days we could help. He could enjoy time inside a loving home. He could take walks in the woods with young boys. Loving fosters showing him how life should be. He would have medical care to support his heart and give him comfort. Here’s part of his story.
On Sunday May 9th, a concerned citizen first brought attention to a dog needing help. From the picture they sent to an Animal Control Advisory Board Member, it obviously needed help. The ACA Board Member contacted Columbus Animal Care and Control (CACC).
When she followed up the next day, she was told by the interim division manager:
“Officer **** went to investigate this compliant on Sunday, May 9, 2021 at approximately 3:10 p.m. Officer **** observed 1 gray/white bulldog with long pointy ears and collar. The dog was present on the property in a shaded area on the side of house with water and food bowls present. The dog appeared healthy. No violations were observed.”
The ACA Board Member then contacted the department director and a council member with the information and asked “ to see if maybe something else could be done to help the dog. Offer assistance or something bc this dog is not healthy at all. It is a male so not pregnant. Possibly advanced stage heartworms which is a horrible death.”
The director’s reply that same morning was “Another officer has been dispatched to check on the dog again. As of yesterday afternoon he was fine. Incidentally my Jack Russell Terrier lays in that same position on my deck every day. I would trade with him at any time!”
It is really concerning that “professionals” who are responsible for holding our citizens to a minimum standard of care do not recognize the signs of heart failure or other possible serious health concerns and make light of a defenseless animal suffering. Yes, my dogs enjoy sunning on my driveway also. They don’t have bellies so extended it is extremely difficult for them to move. This dog was not fine and no assistance was offered.
Finally on the morning of Friday the 14th CACC did take possession of the dog. It is not known what happened over the weekend. The ACA Board Member was updated by the council member on Monday (17th) morning saying the interim division manager was trying to get a rescue to take the dog.
As of that time none of the local rescues had been contacted. Three full days after they had taken in the dog.
Shortly after one that afternoon, a local veterinarian (who was supposed to be on vacation) emailed the department director her concerns about the dog urging him to get immediate help. His prompt reply was “I have copied the actions to date that have occurred regarding this dog. I certainly appreciate your concern and bringing this to my attention.” We are not sure why he did not acknowledge he was already aware of this case.
The documentation he presented her did indeed show multiple daily attempts to contact the owner at home. It also directly conflicted with the statement given by him and the interim division manager in earlier emails. “Initial Call 05-09-2011 No one home left door hanger. I did not see or hear any dog outside the house or hear any dog inside the house. I did not see any food or water bowls. I will do a follow-up.... According to this documentation, the dog was not even seen by a field officer until the afternoon of the 12th. We also learned the center’s veterinarian recommended euthansia due to the dog’s congestive heart failure on Friday. It was now Monday afternoon and the dog was still suffering. More than a full week since they were first contacted, three days after their veterinarian’s recommendation.
Animal SOS was not contacted until 5:02 p.m. Monday. We were told we would not be allowed to promote him until Wednesday when his stray hold would be up even though he was not taken in as a stray, knowing we depend on telling the public about our work to be able to raise the funds needed to treat any of our medical cases. In 2020, we spent $57,000 in our CACC Med fund, all from community support. Just wanting to get this dog some relief, we stopped what we were doing and picked him up. Unable to walk, he was carried in a blanket.
Arriving at the emergency veterinarian clinic, their initial thought was he would not live a week but we would try to bring him comfort. That night more than eight liters of fluid were drained from his belly. As we suspected, heart failure due to advanced heartworm disease. He also suffers from anemia, hookworms, infections, and early kidney failure. The vet at his follow up appointment on Thursday gave him a body score of 2 out of 10.
Animal SOS has been providing medical care to dogs in need at CACC for going on six years. Paws Humane and Animal Ark also take on medical cases. When dogs are given to us as earlier medical releases, we know if an owner is found they can claim him and we have to return them. We have returned dogs to owners after providing medical care. Some later were then surrendered back to us. It doesn’t matter. A dog should not suffer because of some technicality.
How can anyone work at a place where it is allowed for an animal to needlessly suffer for days? Why does it take four days to reach out to get help? We probably will never know that answer. It is obvious from the communications between the staff that you cannot trust answers from them.
At Animal SOS we treasure transparency. Actually it’s a lesson learned from my momma. It’s just easier to keep the story straight if you tell the truth from the start. A part of being transparent is sharing when things do not go well or when humans make a mistake, which everyone does. We do not hold anyone to be perfect. Yet it’s how you respond to your mistake that speaks to your character.
Our intent in revealing this case, believing it’s not the first time when a dog went too long for help, is so our citizens can make sure city officials, both staff and elected, understand our community will not tolerate a helpless being suffering without assistance. When the “professionals” charged with seeing companion animals do not suffer because they have lousy owners, lack the training or just refuse to take reasonable steps to help an animal when multiple resources are available, changes need to happen. To not recognize the link between animal care and human care, where there is neglect/abuse with animals, neglect/abuse will be found in the family, reveals an attitude that is not acceptable in our community.
This is not even a case where we are pleading for charges to be brought. We are pleading for a comprehensive, immediate plan that brings some care as promised in the name, Columbus Animal Care and Control.
Ten and a half years ago I started my journey into animal welfare. The topic of No Kill was just coming to Columbus. The first year I educated myself by volunteering at Columbus Animal Care and Control (CACC) talking to different people who had been in the field. After Animal SOS was started, we collaborated with them on many things like the start of the Community Cat Program, mass adoption events with other area rescues and medical care of the impounded animals.
I also served on the Animal Control Advisory Board for two terms and still attend their meetings. During that time, I never saw an appeal of a dangerous dog classification like the one I witnessed on the 10th of this month.
When CACC issues a charge of a dangerous dog, the owner either agrees to strict restrictions to keep their dog, euthanizes the animal, or appeals. For my first term on this board, basically hearing appeals was all we did. In none of the cases before this one have I heard charges about one bite/snap, two punctures instead of multiple. Never had I heard a case where the bite occurred in a private residence. Never had I heard a case where one bite resulted in 43 charges. (Neither had a court clerk with 19 years experience) Never had I heard a case where the citing field officer did not speak. Never had I heard a case where the board members were not allowed to keep the evidence presented to them. Never had I attended a meeting when there was a deputy sheriff present.
I take dog aggression very seriously. While we at Animal SOS try to save them all, we recognize that it’s not always possible and have euthanized dogs for aggression. Yet if every dog that bit was classified as dangerous, we wouldn’t have a dog over population problem in Columbus and you would not be able to find a chihuahua. Under the right circumstances, any dog might bite.
So why was this dog treated differently? Perhaps it was because his owner is the director of the organization who was making a proposal to the city in an effort to privatize operations of animal control. (The proposal has been submitted and we are awaiting the city’s response.) She was pressured by CACC staff to euthanize the dog, before her court date, before the hearing. She was told her dog would have to be muzzled ANYTIME when he was outside her home, even though he has no history of biting outside. The bite victim’s story changed in less than a week between the court date (where the owner took full responsibility for the bite as she has from the beginning) and the Advisory Board hearing. At least four people outside of the two parties directly involved know that to be true, two are CACC employees.
This treatment is an acceleration of the past harassment one of Animal SOS’ staff received earlier this year. Before we received our rescue license, we adopted the animals we were saving. On January 6th of this year, the same CACC field officer goes to a staff member's home (she has a Ring camera) in the middle of the day for proof of the spay/neuter of “the dogs” she adopted. As a side note, they couldn’t harass the other staff member because she does not live in Muscogee County. They cannot enforce spay/neuter vouchers which is why Animal SOS is spending literally thousands of dollars each month to fix CACC impounded dogs and cats before they leave the building. This visit occurred more than five months after her last adoption, not the 30 day follow up they say is practiced. A dog could have easily already had a litter.
When the staff member called the field officer that left the notice, he could not immediately give her the dogs’ log ID# which is the only way we can track which dog out of the dozens of possible dogs they were asking about and how they track. She heard nothing more until six weeks later when the officer came back to her home. She then called the center and one of the shelter staff provided the needed number showing they were asking about dogs adopted a full year before. In minutes we could show them where and when Paws (who turns in the vouchers to CACC for reimbursement) had fixed him. Think of the time it took to send a field officer who could not identify the dogs not once but twice to the home of someone who typically is INSIDE animal control two or three times a week. No wonder the officers don’t have time to take action against cruelty.
The current management by their actions have shown their true regards to the two animal rescues who are responsible for them maintaining their low kill status last year. The lack of a professional approach in dealing with the individuals in either case is shocking. What type of relationship is this indicating?
We are not saying that we expect special treatment in any way. Yet we don’t expect to be treated like we are a problem. Especially when there are many important problems not being addressed in the interest of a dog responsible and safe community.
We do it for the dogs and cats who need a second chance of finding a good home. There are enough challenges without wasting our time on games. The citizens and animals deserve better from our city.
Ten years ago I was researching ways for Animal SOS to help our companion animals outside of having a shelter. I knew there was a lot of need and just had to decide where to start. So as I look back on what Animal SOS accomplished in 2020 I am humbled. The village that has come together in support of our efforts faced a year with extraordinary challenges yet they amazed us with their passion for this work.
Your generous support was a crucial element in our work. With over $300,000 in medical expenses alone, we depend on you to be able to continue. We love being able to answer the call of animals in need even when we know it might get complicated. I couldn’t decide on one story to share, so we have two.
We started the year in January with Fiji, now named Jude. He came to us as a very young puppy, only a few weeks old, in horrible condition. His eyes were severely ulcerated and had to be removed. Lack of nutrition caused his legs to bow from rickets and of course the usual intestinal worms and skin conditions. He’s our first dog to make it to The Dodo Facebook page. You can see him living his best life here in his new home thanks to our partners Paws and Affect Rescue in Illinois - https://fb.watch/3dIkv5d4To/.
The city of Columbus is celebrating two years of not killing pets for space. It has been a journey almost a decade in the making. Many played a part in making this a reality. Thanks need to go to our rescues including Trisha Montgomery and her staff at Paws Humane Society, Sabine Stull and her crew at Animal Ark Rescue, and my wonderful village at Animal SOS. Yet our rescues all are supported by our outstanding community. Individuals volunteering their heart, time and efforts and giving their money because rescue is not cheap.
So let’s take a moment and glow in our achievement.
Then let’s remember hundreds of animals still died with categories of sick or aggressive. So instead of just being thankful Columbus has not killed an animal for space, we question what else can be done to develop a more humane community?
Columbus continues to refuse to take actions that would show a progressive attitude, especially if there’s a chance of their number being negatively impacted. It took six years from the time owner surrender hours were first discussed for them to be enacted. Having owner surrender hours allows a shelter to plan for intake and give better attention on arrival instead of just placing them in a kennel and getting to them when staff has the time. It allows staff time to counsel the owner on other options. Yet it took six years.
Another progressive concept that could be adopted by CACC is adoption counseling, trying to match the personality and lifestyle of the adopters with the available pets striving to find a “furever” home. Yet concern that might lead to claims of discrimination prevents it as a possibility. Today anyone with a photo id and cash can adopt any animal. There are no restrictions. People who have not used their spay/neuter voucher or provided proof of the surgery from a previous adoption can adopt. People who have been convicted of animal cruelty have adopted. (While the official policy is that there is a list with cruelty offenders, we also know of at least one adoption in the last year to a person with multiple Muscogee County convictions.)
We won’t even get into the subjective way neglect/cruelty cases are handled. We will save that topic for its own post.
We believe community education will make a significant difference to help some of the cases. Our citizens need to know that all living beings should expect basic care including food, a comfortable dry place to call home, and having medical needs addressed. Also they need to know there are resources available to them to help.
So congratulations for being able to say we have not killed for space for two years. We can be happy and rest on our laurels or we can strive to continue to improve. Can’t wait to see what 2021 will bring!
Animal SOS gets great pleasure assisting in the spay and neutering of pets. We have really enjoyed our Pit Fix program since they are most likely to be killed at Columbus Animal Care and Control. Unfortunately too many people think money is endless and do not realize why this program was only available to Muscogee County residents.
So many desire to see companion animals have a better life.
Facebook plays a vital role in their mission. It can be a blessing but far too often it becomes far from beneficial.
Recently, we have witnessed posts that have been vengeful, judgmental, unproductive, and a general waste of time and energy. Often people comment on posts without having anywhere near full information about the case and judging individuals and rescues for how they are perceived to act.